Back in 1985 we needed to buy a car to drive from home to the local railway station which was about 2 miles away. I had a company car so this was just something to use for that short trip and perhaps for fun. We settled on a 1965 MGB bought from Barry Sidery-Smith. In all honesty had seen better days but it wasn't a wreck just not in the first flush of youth. However over the next few years we restored it and now, some 27 years later, it sports a fast road engine, uprated suspension, knock-on alloys etc. In fact it has been around France and is a great car to have in the garage for fun trips.
One of those fun trips is the annual MG Car Club International Festival,
which is now labelled "MG Live". When we first got involved the
event was held on the club (now "National") circuit. That first
weekend saw me replace the exhaust in the paddock in heavy rain (and not a
little mud). And since then the event has been synonymous with rain.....
and of course repairs to various cars! This year was no exception, as far
as meteorology was concerned anyway, but thankfully not whilst I was racing.
In this writer's opinion, something has perhaps been lost by changing the moniker
of the event. The clubby atmosphere has gone to be replaced by a sub
"Silverstone Classic" philosophy. By this I mean no disrespect
to the MG Car Club or its organisation, in particular some people who I will
single out for praise later. Nonetheless the intimacy of the event has
I flew in to Heathrow on the morning of the 21st June in order to attend my
doctor's surgery for some tests. Unfortunately he'd been taken ill so the
tests didn't take place! So Thursday was spent organising the barbeque
and food/drinks etc. to take to Silverstone. We picked up the Capri on
the Friday afternoon from Ken Clarke (Tim Clarke would bring the MGB) and
installed it in the garage where Anthony Robinson (Ex works Dolomite) and Chris
Williams (Group A Rover) would join us on the Saturday.
Qualifying and racing were both on Saturday for me so, we prepped the cars
and got set to go. Logistically I had a problem because I was entered in
the MGB 50 race, which was immediately followed by the JD Classics race in the
Capri. So I approached Ron Gammons the CoC, who, in my opinion has really
imposed his presence on this role. He was obliging and gave me permission
to pull off at the end of the MGB race, into the escape road at Brooklands, so
that I could get into my car which Tim C would park in the assembly area.
Of course this was subject to me finishing the MGB race.
I completed 15 mins of the 30 mins allowance for the MGB practice and qualified
34th. I guess I still haven't got to grips with driving these things but
I was in a group of around eight cars all within a second of each other.
The JD Classics grid was, sadly not so large (58 for the MGB 50, only 16 for
the JDC). But it included some important, original cars; the JDC Gp 2
Capri; the Robinson Gp1 Dolomite; the ex Dennis Leech Rover Vittesse, not to mention,
what I hope is the original 1976 Holman Blackburn Spa 1976 Capri.
Unfortunately, I was classed as a group 2 car in the JD Classics (my car is actually
Group 1) and thus I was totally outgunned by everything around me in my class,
however I managed to out qualify two V8s and the Robinson Dolomite. Of
course coming off the line, the V8s would jump me, which left me with Anthony
to deal with. But before that I had the MGB race. I got a good
start and I think I made up a couple of places from the start. I let
things settle down but my mirrors told me I had plenty of space behind, so all
I needed to do was concentrate on going forwards. The group I was in was
pretty close and it was looking to be good fun. Then, as I crossed the
line to begin lap 3 I heard a buzzing noise and although the oil pressure was
good, I switched off and coasted to the end of the pit lane. Upon
investigation, the rocker shaft had broken. The MG engine is supposedly
unburstable, but I confess to some frustration, because I am being extremely
careful with this car and which is reflected in my lap times, yet it still
breaks! Anyway I had another race to drive.
Having experienced the loss of places from the line, due to the power of the
V8s behind me, I settled in to chase them. And I wasn't doing too badly,
until Anthony used his power (similar bhp to me but 200kg lighter) to pass me
on Hanger straight, which I then regained as we entered Stowe. Then I set
out to chase down the cars in front. But, even though they were quicker
on the straights, the V8s (and the Mach 1 is drop dead gorgeous) were no match
in the corners. So I caught up with the Baldock Mach 1 but it then slowed
me by around 2 secs per lap!. Anthony, on the other hand (and I take some
pride in this) was watching my lines and getting much quicker. The upshot
was that as the Mach 1 pulled off for its pit stop, which released me to go
quicker, Anthony was already on my tail and cruised past as we exited Village
on to the Wellington straight.
As it turned out I overtook the two V8s, albeit in the pits, because my
average times were quicker, but after the pit stops my race was pretty
lonely even if I was going quicker. No prizes for this race but I have to
say that the initiative is brilliant, and whilst my (group 1 - please note
Duncan) car is a replica, it will be tremendous if the series can grow.
As to those who deserve praise:
The marshals all need a special thanks for being there and in particular
Cheryl Tilbury just for pointing out my practice spin on Facebook.
However I must also thank Dave Saunders, who made sure the confusion over my
entry to the MGB50 was resolved with style and aplomb. The aforementioned
Ron Gammons who really has become the face of MG Live. I'd also like to
thank Duncan Wiltshire who has put the Touring Cars initiative together, and
manages the whole thing extremely well. And of course Lindsay, who made
sure we all got fed and equally importantly, to race.
In closing, I was hitching up the trailer on Sunday when Steve Hall (Hall Garages in Bourne Lincs) happened by. I said to him "rocker shaft broke, lap two". He said "Distributor broke, lap one, nothing changes does it?" One of life's good blokes.
Hopefully we'll see you next year.